Durham police charge man with murder of 59-year-old man killed near downtown

Police on Monday announced they have charged a Durham man with murder in the fatal shooting of a 59-year-old man at East End Park near downtown Durham last September.

The U.S. Marshals Task Force helped Durham police apprehend Kenneth Heath, 24, on Friday on Golden Crest Drive.

Heath was wanted on a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting of Joseph Leon Roberts on Sept. 2, 2023.

He is being held without bail at the Durham County jail.

What police say happened

Police responded to a ShotSpotter alert between Mallard Avenue and Neville Street at 1:32 a.m. Sept. 2.

They found Roberts with a gunshot wound at East End Park at 1200 N. Alston Ave. He died after being taken to a hospital.

The Durham City Council has since ended the ShotSpotter program, a surveillance system that used audio sensors to alert police to the sound of possible gunfire. The council voted 4-2 to discontinue a pilot program after a Duke study found, while it got police to incidents more quickly, there was no evidence it reduced violent crime, The News & Observer reported.

It was the third fatal shooting in Durham in two days after two people were killed within minutes of each other on Aug. 31.

The first happened at the intersection of Holloway and Brye streets. The second was on North Miami Boulevard.

Anyone with any additional information on Roberts’ death is asked to contact Investigator L. Sprinkle at 919-560-4440 ext. 29248 or CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200, or durhamcrimestoppers.org. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards of up to $2,000 for information leading to arrests in felony cases, and callers never have to identify themselves.

There were 49 criminal homicides in Durham in 2023, up from 45 in 2022, according to police statistics.

Aaron Sánchez-Guerra contributed to this story.